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MODALS

A.

Ability

1.

What are the ten different ways in which you can use a ruler other than its
regular use? List your answer below.
e.g. You can use it to dig holes.

2.

Do you see any difference in the following sentences?


a.

You can use a ruler to dig holes.

b.

You can use my ruler to dig holes.

c.

You can find a ruler in the study room.

Can is used to express permission, ability, and possibility in these sentences.


In sentence (a) can is used to express ______________ .
In sentence (b) can is used to express ______________ and,
in sentence (c) can is used to express__________ .
Can, could, may, might, will, would, must, ought to, shall, should are called
Modal verbs.

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3.

Work in pairs. Tell your partner what you are not able to do now because of
the fast-paced life.
e.g. I could play in the open ground but now I can't.
I could visit my aunt on weekends but..

4.

Write a paragraph about a newly devised robot that can be of great help to
home-makers.
Zoomo, the robot can make tea when guests arrive..

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B.

Necessity, Obligation and Permission

5.

The table below provides you with a list of modals that are used to express
necessity and permission.
Necessity/ obligation

Permission

Positive

Positive

must
have to

obeying

can (less formal)

authority

need to
ought to

may (more formal)


right thing

should

to do

Negative

Negative

must not

need not

cannot

do not have to

ought not to
Did you know?
* Negatives are formed by putting a negative word such as 'not'
immediately after the modal.
You must not leave now.
You cannot go home now.
6.

Write the contracted forms. Practise saying these words.


e.g. ought not to - oughtn't to.
cannot ________

must not __________

need not _______

do not _____________

should not ______

did not ____________

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7.

The following note comes from an army booklet, "Advice to New Recruits."
Complete the instructions by filling in the blanks with suitable modals.
Welcome to Ranor Barracks!

Follow the rules, accept the advice and you will find your life in the army interesting
and fulfilling.
You _____ have your hair cut very short in the first month. After that you ________
grow it longer but it ______ never touch your collar. Your uniform ______ be kept clean
and tidy. Boots and buttons __________ be polished daily. You ______ use cell phones
on the campus but you _______ switch them off during the training sessions. Before
joining you _____ have a medical check-up. You ________ undergo medical
examinations once a year during service.
8.

Write what each symbol means using can, can't, must, mustn't.

STOP
POLICE

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C : Duties and Privileges


9.

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In some schools the student - council members are assigned duties at the
beginning of every academic year.

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Write a job description to be given to the newly elected Environment
Monitor of your school.
You may do this individually. Later your class as a whole can come out with one
duty list to be displayed on the soft-board. You may use the words given in the
box below.
can, may, can't, mustn't, must, should, have to.
9.1

Duties and privileges of an Environment Monitor.


e.g. You must ensure that the campus is clean.

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Did you know?
should and ought to have similar meanings. They show obligation or duty.
However there is a slight difference in meaning.
ought to has an objective meaning whereas should is more subjective.
We ought to / should save water.
We ought to save money but we are unable to. (In this sentence should will not
be appropriate.).

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D : Probability
10.

The following statements express varying degrees of certainty. Look at


the underlined modals in each of the statements. Then number the
sentences in order of certainty. Mark the sentence No. 1 if it is most likely
certain and the least likely as no. 5.

a)

The lady in the formal attire may be Mr. Chawla's secretary. (a) ____________

b)

The foreigners accompanying him could be the

(b) ____________

newly appointed interpreters.


c)

The man in the safari talking to someone on the


cell phone must be Mr. Chawla.

(c) ____________

d)

Mr. Chawla will be the chief guest.

(d) ____________

e)

The people following him might be from the media.

(e) ____________

Did you know?

11.

will be

expresses

certainty

could be

expresses

probability (more likely)

may be

expresses

possibility (less likely)

might be

expresses

probability (least likely)

On a cold winter night you hear a loud shrieking noise at repeated


intervals. What might have caused this?
Write down your ideas using the pattern below.
might
It

could
must

the owl hooting


have been
a ghost

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E : Intention & Prediction


12.

Make five promises to your friend expressing your willingness to do


something.
Use shall/will
e.g. I shall never be late to school.
Promises to Keep!

Did you Know?


One of the puzzling things in English is to know when to use shall and when to
use will.

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Whenever we desire to express some command, promise, threat or
determination shall is used in the second and third person and will is used in
the first person.
You shall receive your prize tomorrow. (promise)
He shall not enter the lab again. (determination)
I will reward her for her diligence. (promise)
I will report to the Principal if you don't submit your homework. (threat)
I will never use abusive language. (determination)
13.

The Environment in Danger


What do you think will happen to the following?
Choose four, and write one sentence about each using the modals below
and/or expressions from 10.

a)

The ozone layer

b)

The Taj Mahal

c)

The Maldives

d)

The rainforests

e)

Weather patterns

f)

Fossil fuels

g)

The Ganges delta


e.g. In my opinion, the hole in the ozone layer will grow bigger and more
people will get skin cancer.

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14.

Saving the World


What do you think

ought to

be done about these problems?

should
e.g. I think the Government should ban all sprays which destroy the ozone
layer.
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15.

Read an extract from the poem New Year Resolution


The priest asked "Son, any new resolution this year"
I said "Father, driving with the
helmet and in first gear",
"That's good, my son, but have you any more?"
"Sure, there are ten, but I shall keep only four".

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The first will be never to wipe
the shoe behind my pant
The second will be to say without hesitation "I can't",
The third is to always keep the toothpaste cap on
It's something which I never did since I was born.

The fourth, never to look at your neighbour's hedge


It's that what has brought the envy and the wedge,
The fifth is easy and you can have a ball
Never take from Peter what you have to pay Paul.

The sixth is to hold my head high even under water


Learn simple things of life from the potter,
He moulds wonders out of his two hands
Leaving impression forever on the sands.
Try and compose a poem conveying your resolutions. Let the first stanza be the
same.
e.g.
The first will be never to yawn
in public be it noon, dusk or dawn.
The second.

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F : Mixed Modals
16.

Match the sentences in A with their meanings in B.


A

You should have taken your keys.

B
It is possible that you left your keys.

You could/might have lost your keys You are to blame for leaving your
at the cinema.
keys.
You must have left your keys at home.
17.

I think that you probably left your keys.

While you were away on holiday, your house was burgled. Write a letter to
your friend to tell him or her about it.
Use the underlined expressions in Column A above to help you. Include...

1.

how the burglar could have got in,

2.

how he knew you had gone away, and

3.

what you could have done to prevent the burglary.

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18.

Look at the following pair of sentences. Underline the modals and discuss
why each one is used in that sentence.
e.g.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

I must not take those pills.

(I'm not allowed)

I need not take those pills.

(It is not compulsory but I may if I wish.)

a)

I can't go to the meeting because I'm not a member.

b)

I needn't go to the meeting if I don't wish to.

a)

I can swim a length of the pool.

b)

I can swim in the pool on Saturdays.

a)

You ought to get a nice present for her.

b)

You have to get a nice present for her.

a)

Can I go to the toilet?

b)

May I be excused?

a)

I may come tomorrow if I have the time.

b)

I might come tomorrow but it's going to be difficult.

Did you know?


Modals are a small group of verbs that are used to express possibility,
probability, capability, capacity, ability, obligation and predictions.
Some of the modals you learnt in this unit are
can

could

will would

may

might

must

shall

should

ought to

Need, dare, had better are also modals.

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Understanding Modals :
Modal Auxiliaries
A modal verb or auxiliary verb is a verb, which modifies another verb, so that
the modified verb has more intention in its expression. In essence the modal
verb expresses modality, the way in which something is being said.
The main modals are
Can: could; may: might; shall: should; will: would: must; ought to; need to;
have to.
The negative modals are
Couldnt; wouldnt; shouldnt; mustnt; neednt; oughtnt/ ought not to

Modal

Examples

Uses

Can/ cant

She can read and write

ability

It can rain today

possibility/probability

Can I borrow your pen?

seeking permission

Can you lend me your notes?

request

Can I carry your books?

offer

Could I borrow your book?

seeking permission

Could you please help me with


this sum?

request

We could go for a picnic on Sunday.

suggestion

I think you could come first this


time.

possibility/probability

There was a time when I could


work round the clock.

past ability

Could/couldnt

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May

May I have some water?

request

May I help you?

offer

May I shut the door?

permission

India may become a super power


by 2020.

possibility/probability

May God bless you

wish/ desire

Might

They might sell their house as


they need the money.

future possibility/
probability

Will /Wont

It is very cold so I will stay at home.

intention

I will help you if you wish.

offer

Will you look after my dog for a day?

request

It will rain tonight.

prediction

I will get you a shawl from Srinagar.

promise

Would/Wouldnt Would you mind if I come over


tonight?

permission

Would five o clock suit you?

making arrangements

Yes it would.

request

Would you pass the salt?

invitation

Would you come to my party?

preference

Would you prefer tea or coffee?


Shall

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Shall I help you?

offer

Shall we meet at 3.00 pm outside


Bakshi Stadium?

making arrangements

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Should

Ought to

We should check the timings of


the train.

recommended action

You should listen to the advice of


your elders.

advice

You ought to do your duty.

advice

The bus ought to be here any minute. probability


Must/mustnt

Need

We must make a move now.

obligation

You mustnt tell lies.

necessity

He need not go to the market.

necessity

You need to lose weight.

compulsion

I need to get the groceries.

insistence

Modals do not inflect. They do not change depending on the subject


e.g.

I can
you can
They can
It can

Only one modal is used in a verbal group.


Would is used to express offer.
e.g Would you like to have coffee?
Could and might are used to seek permission (polite) but may is used to
grant permission.
Could I use your pen?
Yes, you may.

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Empty use of can and could.
The modals can and could are both used with verbs of perception like see, hear,
smell, feel etc. where they don't have any special meaning. Since these verbs
cannot take the continuous tense the modals are used to indicate an action.
e.g.

I can smell a fire


I can hear a weird noise.
She could feel her hair standing up.

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